Recharging Your Subject Line and Copy

Share |

On radio they call it the tease. This morning, just before a commercial break, the host said, "You may know Vince Scully as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 65 years, but in two minutes you'll hear a story from Scully like you've never heard before."

It was short and sweet and effective. The payoff was okay—something about a star pitcher and his wife fending off a snake—but it's always a pleasure to hear Scully. There's a tendency to go longer with teases—I do it myself sometimes. But often succinct teases win out.

Last week, a newsletter I received from another group ran down the items they were covering. On the ones that ran long—say three sentences—I tended to read just the headline. But on the one that was just one sentence, I read it. The headline was "Experiment More" and the tease simply said, "Learn how outside-the-box thinking makes successful leaders." It clicked so I clicked.

That's actually number 8 on a good list of tips for Writing Compelling Email posted last week from Hubspot's Lindsay Kolowich: "Be brief... find a way to summarize what the reader will get in a compelling way, and let them click through to a page on your website for more information."

(A Pre-Conference session at SIPA 2016, June 6-8 in Washington, D.C., titled Words of Power, Words of Wonder: How to Supercharge Your Copy and Achieve Breakthrough Results led by Jim Sinkinson will give you more ways to get clicks and engagement.)

Let's go through a few more of Kolowich's tips:

1. Use actionable language. I like "You're invited...," 'Join us...," or "Don't forget..." as openings for a subject line. Makes me feel special and that I need to act. Kolowich likes "Don't miss..."—kind of the same idea. It's funny though. I'm looking at a bunch of emails, and the subject lines are more concerned with the topic than asking me to take an action. "Filmfest DC: Films From France." "Gartner's Spend Survey." "Webcast Follow-up."

2. Personalize when possible. She writes that a DMA study found that "segmented and targeted emails generated 58% of all revenue for the marketers surveyed, and 36% of revenues were driven by emails sent to specific target selections."

3. Prioritize clarity, and only then think about "catchiness." I just saw a good example of this: "Actually, April Showers Bring Awesome Renwick Programs." I get it but it kind of confuses me. Do the showers have something to do with the theme of the programs? The email opens to some great photos—those could have been teased. There's nothing about showers, or even a lead sentence that plays with that a little bit, which leads to number 4.

4. Align your subject line copy and email copy. "...when readers don't get what they're actually promised in the subject line, click-through rates plummet," Kolowich wrote.

5. Establish relevancy. "Just like the email subject line should strive to establish relevancy through personalization, so should the copy in the message of the email," Kolowich wrote.

Of the last five on her list, "Talk about benefits, not features" has been trumpeted even louder by Sinkinson. "What is a benefit? A benefit has to have one of two elements—an emotional reward that makes you feel great or a tangible reward. What it is not is information, learning something or news. A benefit makes a positive, tangible change in someone's life. I'm not going to buy a product unless it [makes a difference in] my life."

A point Kolowich adds is that saying 30% off can be meaningless if the subscription/course/event being talked about is of no use. So keep the actual item front and center.

Her number 10 is "Use actionable language in your call-to-action." "View deal" is an especially good phrase since it both initiates an action and informs about a special rate. "Save the date" also will get attention. I just got one that says, "Meet the Comma Queen." I'm, in.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
If not, you're missing out on daily strategies, tips, profiles and case studies that can build your audience and increase revenue. To sign up, please contact Nevena Jovanovic.

Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…